When Victor Frankenstein—I mean,
When Dr. Victor Fronkensteen
Is told he has an old estate
From great-granddad (who is dead bait),
He leaves his fussy fiancée
To see this castle, old and gray,
And meets the humpbacked help Igor
(Pronounced Eye-gor to underscore)
And adjunct Inga, who both bring
The doctor to his castle wing,
Where he explores the secret rooms,
Becomes the man the world assumes
And, gripped by mania, begins
To resurrect old bones and skins
To bring to life a creature, his,
But “abby normal” its brain is,
And to his horror it’s released,
The monstrous, strong, dim-witted beast,
To terrorize the neighborhood
Until he lures it back for good
And gives the brute a second chance
To be his own and sing and dance,
Yet villagers are not impressed
And plan to kill the giant pest,
Who flees and has a fling that day
With Victor’s willing fiancée,
Until he’s gently drawn once more
By Victor, Inga, and Igor
And given part of Victor’s brain
To make him cultured and urbane,
At which point everything works out
And neither has to do without,
For both have love and seem benign,
Both monster/man and Frankenstein.

Often ranked among the funniest films of all time, Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks’s finest film. With its haunting score and black-and-white cinematography, it brilliantly feigns solemnity while piling on absurdities both familiar and new. It indulges in Brooks’s penchant for sexual humor without wallowing in it and reminds everyone just how funny Gene Wilder could be. The script by Brooks and Wilder has a screwy charm, with lines like “Walk this way” being turned into opportunities for unforeseen silliness that reward multiple viewings. (That line even inspired the lyrics of Aerosmith’s single “Walk This Way.”)

All the actors are at the top of their comedic game. Wilder has a unique talent for acting maniacally crazed, while Marty Feldman’s bug eyes make him an ideal Eye-gor, shifting hump and all. The comedians are at their best when they themselves struggle to keep their composure, such as when Wilder and Feldman discuss the “abby normal” brain. Madeline Khan and Kenneth Mars reunite from What’s Up, Doc?, and Mars’s capacity for inscrutable accents continues to be hilarious. Cloris Leachman is especially memorable as the frigid Frau Blücher [horse neighs in fright]. Lastly, Peter Boyle as Frankenstein’s monster, perhaps the straightest role, combines lumbering pathos, a short temper, and some self-aware glances at the audience. Plus, one can’t forget Gene Hackman’s cameo as an espresso-making blind man.

The best parodies have a comedic voice of their own besides just pointing out their similarities with other films. On one level, Young Frankenstein works as an homage to Universal’s old Frankenstein movies, even employing the same mad-scientist equipment from the 1930s; on the other hand, it spoofs them with abandon, delivering endless original laughs with spinning bookcases, aimless dart games, and mute pleas for “sedagive.” Even now, forty years later, this is Mel Brooks at his best.

Best line (out of too many): (Igor, poking his head out the door as a test) “Blücher!” [horses whinny]

Rank: 53 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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